Monday, July 8, 2013
Skipper’s Fish Camp
85 Screven St.
“Guys, it just doesn’t get any better than this.”
Remember that iconic Old Milwaukee television commercial -- all the dudes sitting around a campfire on the beach, sun setting into the lake, knocking back cold ones?
Yeah. That’s what I was thinking to myself on this sunny spring afternoon as I sipped my ice cold Sweetwater 420 sitting on the back deck at Skipper’s Fish Camp.
Sun shining down, a cool breeze blowing off the Darien River, shrimp boats motoring by and Charlie Daniels and Hank Williams, Jr. on the outdoor sound system.
It just doesn’t get any better than this.
Other than the Outlaw Country soundtrack, the only other sounds are the cries of the sea gulls and the
locals at the table next to me calling out their “hey y’alls” to the shrimpers who just tied up to the pilings across the salt marsh.
Darien, Georgia is a fleeting little coastal town, one of the few remaining still genuinely tied to the bounties of the surrounding waters.
The one block downtown consists of four or five buildings.
Just downhill toward the water’s edge lies Skipper’s and a row of shrimp boats -- an increasingly rare sight on the southeastern coastline.
Cold hard economics makes it difficult to cling to this fading, salty way of life.
With diesel at four bucks per gallon, it can cost several hundred dollars to fill a shrimp boat’s fuel tank for a day of trawling the coastal waters.
Even at the $11 per pound going retail rate for local jumbo shrimp, it’s hard to eke out much of a profit.
Worse yet, folks can go to the local Piggly Wiggly and buy shrimp for $3-$4 per pound.
Of course that bargain shrimp doesn’t come from the Darien River. It comes from a shrimp farm in Thailand.
Can you taste the difference?
Local Georgia shrimp are firmer and sweeter.
Besides, seafood is supposed to come from the sea -- not some Third World farm on the other side of the planet where masses of frankenshrimp swim in their own waste.
But don’t worry about the health consequences of such shrimp factories. The fish food the shrimp are fed is spiked with mass amounts of anti-biotics -- so you won’t get sick.
Some Department of Agriculture bureaucrat would probably try to convince me this is “progress”.
Give me a plate of shrimp that came right out of the deep blue sea in front of me.
That’s what you get at Skipper’s Fish Camp where your meal probably came right off one of the boats docked out back.
A favorite way to enjoy local wild-caught shrimp here in the Low Country is shrimp and grits.
Skipper’s version piles a whole mess of shrimp in a bowl of cheese grits topped with smoky bacon.
I got my local shrimp blackened with a crab cake combo.
With a light peppery seasoning, my shrimp had a nice skillet char on the outside while remaining succulent and tender on the inside.
My crab cake was a Low Country version typical of this part of the coast.
Around the Chesapeake Bay, crab cakes tend to be baseball shaped mounds of moist crab meat faintly held together by mayonnaise and a few traces of bread crumbs.
They do crab cakes a bit differently down here.
Skipper’s crab cake was flattened rather than round, with more seasoning, less mayo and a nice dark crust from the skillet.
I’m not going to start any fist fights over which version I like better, but let’s just say any open-minded “when in Rome” crab cake connoisseur won’t be disappointed at Skipper’s.
Skipper’s sides were a highlight rather than an afterthought.
Collard greens chockfull of pork fat.
Sweet potato casserole mixed up with lots of pecans and brown sugar.
And top notch homemade onion rings. The batter compliments rather than overshadows the thick, sweet, juicy rings of local Vidalia onion.
Of course no trip to Coastal Georgia is complete without sampling some local alligator.
Skipper’s gator bites back as the tender greasy meat is deep fried and then tossed in a fiery hot buffalo sauce.
I had to order several pints of Georgia’s favorite craft brew, Sweetwater 420, to douse the flames.
Yep. Had to.
Drinking beer in the sun on a Wednesday afternoon. Local shrimp, crab and gator.
Nope. It doesn’t get much better.
Rating: Seriously Thought About Buying Shirt.